On Thursday, March 26, Lao Airways suspended most of its international flights to help cut costs amid plummeting demand and to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Some routes to China, notably Chengdu, remain in service, though passengers will have to pay USD 2000 to fund a 14-day quarantine in China. Domestic flights have also suffered significant drops in demand, but continue to function.
On Tuesday, March 24, the Health Ministry announced the country's first two cases of COVID-19 in the capital Vientiane. The Lao government has also implemented entry restrictions for all international arrivals to the country since Monday, March 16, to limit the spread of the virus. Individuals arriving in the country who do not show any symptoms but meet any of the following criteria are required to self-quarantine for 14 days if they:
- Travel from countries that do not share a border with Laos and have recorded more than 100 COVID-19 cases - even if the individual does not show symptoms for the virus.
- Travel from countries that share a border with Laos but not from a neighboring province, and have recorded more than 10 COVID-19 cases - even if the individual does not show any symptoms.
- Travel from a neighboring province from a country that shares a border with Laos that has confirmed more than 3 COVID-19 cases - even if the individual does not show symptoms.
- Have been in close contact with an individual with COVID-19.
Individuals arriving to Laos with symptoms are required to isolate in a hospital to confirm diagnosis of the virus.
As of Thursday, March 26, three cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country, with no associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is likely over the coming weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.